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Building an authentic personal brand: A guide for business leaders

17th January 2024

In the world of business, your reputation is everything. Your personal brand is your most valuable asset.” — Richard Branson

In today’s competitive landscape, a strong personal brand can be a powerful asset for business leaders. It not only enhances your personal reputation but also benefits your company.

But building an authentic personal brand isn’t something you can take on half-heartedly. It requires self-awareness, consistency, and commitment. And if it’s done poorly, it can do more harm than good, so it’s understandable that some might be nervous.

In this guide, we’ll discuss why building a strong personal brand is worth the investment, the challenges faced, and some practical suggestions on how it can be done.

The importance of an authentic personal brand

  1. Trust and credibility:

An authentic personal brand builds trust with your audience. When people see you as genuine and transparent, they are more likely to trust your expertise and decisions along with the company you represent.

2. Influence and leadership

A strong personal brand can position you as a thought leader in your industry. When you consistently share valuable insights and expertise, you become a go-to authority in your field.

3. Career advancement

A well-crafted personal brand can open doors to new opportunities, partnerships, and collaborations, helping you advance your career or grow your business.

4. Company culture

Employees want their leaders to show their social side. It gives the company a human face and gives them the chance to communicate directly with those leading the business. Being active on social media gives shows your personality and enthusiasm for your own company. It allows you to draw attention to things like innovation, creativity and how much you value your employees’ wellbeing.

5. Talent acquisition

It’s not only your current employees who take an interest in their company’s leaders. Anyone thinking of working for the business will want to know all they can about a company before joining, so when the leadership have strong personal profiles, this can draw top candidates who’ll be best suited to join your team and fit into your organisation seamlessly.

6. Reinforcement of company values

A leader’s online profile shouldn’t just mirror their company’s content, it should be used to reinforce brand values and beliefs. If customers, prospects, employees and investors can all see that the messages being put out are genuinely driven from the top down, their trust in the brand will increase.

7. Sales opportunities

No leader should jump into building a personal brand purely with a view to adopting a hard sell. But simply engaging with your audience and demonstrating your personal knowledge and insight does tend to throw up commercial opportunities. If engagement is managed well, opportunities to turn contacts into prospects, and prospects into customers will present themselves.

Your personal brand is what makes you unique and sets you apart from the competition. It’s not just about what you do, but how you do it.” — Kim Garst

The role of PR

PR plays a crucial role in shaping and promoting your personal brand. Working with a reputable PR agency can help you navigate the complexities of brand management and provide valuable insights into audience perceptions. Here are some ways they can add value:
  1. Strategic messaging:

PR experts can help you develop a clear and compelling message that aligns with both your personal brand and that of the company. They can craft key messages that resonate with your target audience and reinforce your brand identity while feeling authentic.

2. Media exposure:

A good agency will have the skills and connections to secure the right media coverage for you. Appearances in reputable publications, interviews, and speaking engagements can boost your visibility and credibility.

3. Reputation management:

PR specialists can monitor your online presence and address any negative publicity or controversies that may arise. They can help you maintain a positive image in the public eye to avoid common PR pitfalls, but if an issue did arise, they’ll be able to advise and coach you on the best way to respond.

Challenges in building an authentic personal brand

While building a personal brand can be highly rewarding, business leaders often face challenges along the way. Here are some common reasons why they might resist or find it difficult:

  1. Fear of vulnerability:

Authenticity requires vulnerability, and some leaders are uncomfortable sharing their personal stories or revealing their flaws. However, showing vulnerability can actually make you more relatable and trustworthy.

2. Time constraints:

Developing a personal brand takes time and effort. Many leaders are already juggling numerous responsibilities, which can make it challenging to allocate the necessary resources to personal branding efforts.

3. Lack of consistency:

Maintaining a consistent personal brand across various platforms and interactions can be demanding. Some leaders struggle to stay on message and may send mixed signals to their audience.

4. Fear of criticism:

Sharing your opinions and expertise can invite criticism, which can be difficult to handle. However, constructive criticism can help you grow and refine your personal brand, and sometimes a lively debate can be a good thing!

5. Difficulty in finding authenticity:

In an attempt to build a personal brand, some leaders may fall into the trap of trying to be someone they’re not. Authenticity is about being true to yourself and your values, not adopting a persona that feels contrived and doesn’t align with who you really are.

Practical tips on how business leaders can build and maintain an authentic personal brand:

  1. Don’t leave it to chance:

If you don’t have a plan, you’ll almost certainly fail. Worse still, you’ll probably end up throwing out content at the last minute which could actually damage your reputation. A simple framework that guides when, where, and what you’ll post will keep you on track and help you prepare in advance rather than when you’re under pressure.

2. Define your values and mission:

Start by identifying your core values and the mission that drives you along with the key themes or topics you want be known for talking about. Your personal brand should reflect these values and convey a sense of purpose. When your brand aligns with your beliefs, it’s easier to stay authentic.

3. Know your audience:

Understand your target audience’s needs, preferences, and pain points. Tailor your messaging and content to resonate with them rather than just covering subjects that are your own personal favourites. Authenticity means connecting with your audience on a personal level.

4. Tell your story:

Share your personal and professional journey. Authenticity often comes from vulnerability as we’ve already mentioned, so don’t be afraid to discuss challenges and setbacks. Your story can inspire others and create a deeper connection.

5. Consistency is key:

Maintain a consistent image and message across all platforms and interactions. This consistency reinforces your personal brand and helps build trust over time.

6. Don’t leave people hanging:

Interact with your audience genuinely. Respond to comments and messages personally and avoid using automated responses. Authentic engagement shows that you value your followers.

7. Be transparent:

Authenticity and transparency go hand in hand. Be open about your successes and failures. Address mistakes honestly and learn from them. Your willingness to admit imperfection can make you more relatable.

8. Showcase your expertise:

Share your knowledge and insights within your industry. Create valuable content such as blog posts, videos, or podcasts that demonstrate your expertise. Consistently providing value will reinforce your authority.

9. Avoid over-promotion:

While it’s essential to promote your achievements and offerings, don’t make self-promotion the sole focus of your brand. Balance self-promotion with content that educates, entertains, or inspires your audience.

10. Seek feedback:

Actively seek feedback from your audience and peers. Constructive criticism can help you refine your personal brand and identify areas for improvement.

11. Stay true to your values:

In the face of trends or peer pressure, stay true to your core values and beliefs. Authenticity often means resisting the temptation to conform to popular opinions or practices.

12. Invest in self-reflection:

Regularly take time to reflect on your personal brand and its alignment with your values. Consider what’s working and what needs adjustment and be willing to evolve as you learn more about yourself and your audience.
Building and maintaining an authentic personal brand is an ongoing process. It requires self-awareness, commitment, and a genuine desire to connect with your audience. By following these tips, business leaders can develop a personal brand that not only sets them apart but also fosters trust, credibility, and lasting connections with their followers and stakeholders.

Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” — Jeff Bezos

Conclusion

Building an authentic personal brand is a valuable endeavour for business leaders looking to stand out in a competitive landscape. By embracing authenticity, leveraging the expertise of professionals, and addressing common challenges, you can develop a personal brand that fosters trust, credibility, and influence.

Remember that authenticity is not about being perfect but about being true to yourself and your values, and this genuine approach can set you apart and propel your career or business to new heights.

Member

About Ben Hollom

I’m a former agency owner, strategist and head of marketing with over 25 years experience, I now work with ambitious agencies and businesses, using my experiences on both sides of the agency – client relationship to support them on their journ...

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